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In this white wave I am sinking

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There’s a day when Erik has to go to a late meeting and Charles goes home alone. It’s strange to ride the train by himself again, to walk down into the station and wait on the platform without talking to Erik about the research he’s been doing, or the classes he taught, or the projects Erik’s working on; strange to step into the carriage alone and look around at all the other people, none of them casually focused on him, on keeping him close and listening seriously to what he did that day as though it’s of grave importance. Without Erik Charles is left a little adrift in the sea of other commuters, and clearly he’s already gotten used to sharing the trips in and out with his Dominant, though he’d done this alone so many times before.

Instead, Charles stands with his satchel dangling idly at his side and zones out a little the way he used to before bonding, listens without listening to the hum of other people’s thoughts, white noise to go along with the rumble of the tracks and the thrum of the engine. He’s three stops away from home when somebody looks up at him and Charles overhears a spike of interest, of attraction - it’s the sudden image of himself that catches his attention, like a voice calling his name - and he looks over to see the girl sitting beside the door looking back at him, meeting his gaze unashamedly. She has long, long legs crossed at the knee and skimmed by her short, aggressively fashionable skirt, and her dark eyes slip from his face to his throat; then she notices the collar, and her thoughts back off as her eyes drop away from him, falling back into the general murmur with a momentary hum of disappointment before she dismisses it for a moment’s fantasy.

It’s flattering, really. Charles frees one hand from where he’s been holding onto the pole in the centre of the carriage and hooks his fingertips over the top edge of his collar. The metal warms to his touch, sleek and polished, and Charles feels owned, secure in the knowledge that though he’s going home alone tonight Erik will come back later to the place where they live together and will be happy to see Charles there waiting for him, will let Charles bask in that feeling without making him restrict himself to the senses other people have.

He has never been given a greater gift than being given to Erik, save for the gift of Raven herself.

Something has changed between them, since the night Erik told Charles he loved him for the first time, stood soft-eyed and earnest in the doorway, looking at Charles with emotion written all over his face. Their relationship is no less passionate, and Erik is no less dominating and commanding, but he’s less overbearing with it. Charles notes it carefully, the way he does all of Erik’s moods - slowly, surely, he is gathering up a picture of the man, getting to know him and what to expect and how best to please him.

The more he gets to know Erik, the more Charles relaxes, lets himself lean further against the support of Erik’s control, trusting him not to let Charles fall. When Erik said he loved him, it was like something blooming, until the words practically said themselves back, revealing themselves to Charles even as he said them aloud. Charles is in love with Erik. He smiles to himself, a private inward curling of happiness that he makes a space for in his chest, builds a hollow for it to settle in and grow. He’s so preoccupied that he almost forgets to get off the train, jolting out of it when the announcer calls the station name for the second time and he stumbles past the girl before the doors can close, grateful he doesn’t catch his jacket between them as they smack together behind him.

The walk home, at least, is uneventful.

It’s very peaceful in the apartment when Charles lets himself in, the whole place lit a dusky orange by the slow-setting summer sun stretching shadows long across the pale carpet, soundproofed against the outside world, like living in a cocoon. He doesn’t turn the lights on, content to move around in the near-dark, every inch familiar now, from the sleek chrome and linoleum of the kitchen (very much Erik’s domain) to the living room and the warm-coloured throws and pillows Raven had made him buy to break up the unrelenting new-house white of the walls. His shoes go into the shoe rack, his jacket on the hook in the hall closet, and then Charles pads through to put his bag under his half of the desk in the study, tucking it neatly away. Erik likes for things to be in their proper places.

He eats dinner alone at the kitchen island with a fork in one hand and the novel Ororo lent him last month in the other, leftovers from the lamb something-or-other Erik made last night and only a few lights turned on, the bare minimum to preserve the comfortable dimness, like a blanket around his shoulders. Being newly bonded has kept him so busy that he hasn’t had time for reading up until now, but the book is pretty good, engaging enough for him not to get frustrated by how flat fictional characters always seem without telepathy to round them out like real people. When he’s finished eating he takes it with him to the couch, curls up in the spot where Erik usually sits and loses himself in the prose.

He wakes up slowly to a hand stroking his hair, a weight dipping the couch cushions by his hip and rolling him towards the warmth of another body, a familiar mind inside of it reaching out to his as he stretches out on waking. “I’m in your seat,” Charles says muzzily, and opens his eyes to find Erik looking down at him, still dressed in his work suit but with his tie undone and top two buttons loose to show the bare V-shape of his collarbone, shadows pooling in the hollow at the base of his throat and the curve of his bare throat.

“You are.” Erik keeps stroking, calluses catching a little from time to time and tugging gently on Charles’ scalp. “You could have gone to bed, you know.”

The book isn’t in his hand any more, and he spots it after a moment on the coffee table where Erik must have put it. “I was reading.”

“I can see that. Did you eat?”

“Mmm.” Thinking feels like wading through molasses, slow and sweet, so Charles rolls into the touch lazily, lets Erik cradle his head for him instead of keeping it up himself. “Yes, Erik.”

That earns him a smile. “My sister has invited us over for dinner tomorrow,” Erik says, and Charles wakes up a little more, biting at his lower lip to keep in his ‘oh’ of surprise. Erik doesn’t seem to notice, more a shadow than a shape in the dark apartment. “She’s an indifferent cook, but I suspect Moira will be in charge of catering, so we should survive.”

The thing is - Charles works harder to think it through, still sluggish after his nap - they’ve been bonded for a month now, but this will be the first time they go to see Erik’s family. In contrast, Raven has been over a few times; after that first, familiarising visit, she’s usually elected to sit on the second floorpad with Charles - even though she’s a Domme - so that she can cuddle up to his side to watch a movie, Erik up on the couch presiding over them like an old-fashioned patriarch, indulgent and growing fonder of Raven as time passes. It’s been surprisingly easy, bringing together his two favourite people and having them get along.

Charles suspects, though cannot prove without intruding, that Raven has chosen to sit on the floor with him on purpose, to make herself seem more submissive and Erik more comfortable with her opposing dominance and previous sway over Charles. Raven is changeable like that, suppresses her natural inclinations when she needs to for best effect. It seems to be working on Erik.

But Emma Frost is very much the head Domme of her small family, like her father before her. The few times he met her Charles was struck hard by her presence, tangible and filling up any room she enters, a wave of dominance telling everyone there that she is the one in charge. The prospect of meeting her not as a potential partner for her younger brother but as his bonded submissive is one he has been fretting over, just a little, and yet - he has wondered at the delay.

“Is there a problem?” Erik asks, and Charles startles, realises he’s been woolgathering instead of answering. Erik’s brows are drawn together into a small frown. “I didn’t think you were busy tomorrow, but we can reschedule.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Charles says, and gathers his hands under himself to sit up, leaning sideways against the back of the couch as Erik makes room for him, still sat hip-to-hip. “I’m not busy.”

Erik tilts his head, considering, and taps two fingers to his own temple, gentle but pointed. “You feel uncertain in here, Charles. What’s wrong?”

“Oh, am I projecting? Sorry. I’m just tired, is all.”

“Charles.”

“She’s a little intimidating,” Charles says, and is relieved when Erik lets out a silent laugh, a puff of amused breath.

“Emma pretends to be a tigress, but if she likes you she’s a big kitten,” he says, pulling his tie out from under his shirt collar and draping it over the couch cushions. “Well, maybe not a kitten. But she puts the claws away.”

The end of the tie is silky smooth when Charles runs it between his fingers, dropping his gaze to watch the green-grey fabric against his skin. “Is there…” He pauses, then curses himself for a coward and continues, “Is there a reason we haven’t been to see them before?”

“What? No. Not really.” A touch on his chin tilts Charles’ head back up to look at Erik, who is scrutinising his expression, face serious now. “Has it been bothering you? Why didn’t you say anything?”

Charles shrugs, and Erik lets out a sigh, bending to kiss the corner of his eye, lips brushing against the flutter of Charles’ lashes when his lids droop, half-blinking, drowsy with affection. “Charles, you need to tell me these things. I’m not the psychic in this relationship. We haven’t been to see them because Emma is going to tease me halfway to Hell and back the moment I step through the door, and Moira isn’t much better, so I wanted you to myself for a while. That way they couldn’t scare you off before I had a chance to get you on my side.”

It’s easy to smile, then, to shift closer and lean into Erik’s body, warm and close, even though the weather is really too hot to sit flush against one another. “I was always on your side.”

“I think maybe we should find some time to have a check-in on where we are,” Erik says, wrapping an arm around Charles’ shoulders to keep him there. He smells a little like sweat, but Charles doesn’t mind. “You know I - how I feel about you, but - I’d like to know where you are, with me. How you’re doing.”

And that - Charles was feeling sleepy again, but that wakes him right back up. “Oh,” he says, dumbly, moves back a bit so he can see Erik’s expression, and doesn’t miss the way it puts them eye-to-eye, almost equal but for Erik’s height. “I’m fine. I’m really very - I’m very happy, Erik. With you.” He tries to think of something better to say and in the end falls back on his first language, presses the feeling of home/safe/love/willing submission/ownership into Erik’s mind, of being owned but owning, too, in a way he had only hoped for before bonding. “Even when it scares me I feel safe with you,” he says, quietly. He tilts his head to invite a kiss, opens his mouth for Erik when his Dom presses their lips together and demands entrance with his tongue, yields gracefully when Erik holds him close and projects back gratitude and warmth and love and fierce possession, laying claim to him.

“We should still discuss specifics,” Erik says when he pulls away finally, “but not tonight,” and gets up from the couch, unfolding his long limbs and reaching for Charles’ hand to pull him up after, tugging him close. “Come on.”

Charles goes, willingly.

 

 

~*~

 

 

Even so, he thinks about it all the next day while he’s sitting through Professor Howard’s class, waiting to hand out the exercise sheets and wandering the aisles offering help to the students. Meeting Erik’s family in a social context is - meeting Emma Frost in what was essentially an interview during the contracts process was different, formally proscribed and predictable. Going to dinner at her home, meeting Erik’s sister as opposed to his Senior Domme, meeting his sister-in-law - Charles’ sisters-in-law, now - he feels unaccountably nervous, even though he knows Erik will be there with him and there is no reason for them to take a sudden dislike to him.

“What’s up with you today?” Hank asks when they’re in the lab that afternoon, preparing tubes of flies for tomorrow’s classes to practice their genetic typing. “You’re distracted. That’s the third lot you’ve had to start over.”

Charles tries to laugh, but it comes out sounding self-conscious and fake, so he lets himself sigh, picking up the next tube and putting the contaminated one in the sink to wash later. “We’re going over to Erik’s sister’s place tonight.”

“So?”

“It’s the first time since we bonded.”

“Oh,” Hank says, handing him a clean syringe for the yeast solution. “Do you think they won’t like you? His sister did pick you, you know. She can’t hate you at least.”

Charles shrugs. “She’s a telepath too.”

“Well, then. You have something to talk about.” One of Hank’s dinner-plate hands - Charles refuses to think of them as paws even if Hank does sometimes, when he’s feeling low - pats him awkwardly on the shoulder, almost too gentle as Hank tries to hold back his own strength. “Charles, everyone likes you. It’s like your secondary mutation. Now stop fretting and get on with these samples or you’ll be late and your Dom will come in here and pretend not to be mad at me but glare at me behind your back like it’s my fault you have butterfingers.”

“He does not,” Charles says, but it makes him laugh, and he can see the crinkles at the corners of Hank’s eyes that say he’s at least half joking. “Erik likes your mutation. He likes mutations generally, but he likes yours. He told me if you were a Dom, or bonded, he’d have invited you to his company’s annual football match and tried to pass you off as one of their scientists.”

“Good thing I’m unbonded, then.” Hank’s still smiling. “I’m terrible at sports. And my claws pop the ball.”

“You should join the track team or something. They have special categories for mutants with abilities that enhance their physical capabilities now, you know. They wouldn’t handicap you for it these days.”

“Hmph. Maybe I should join the swim team, then the office can smell like wet dog all the time,” Hank says, mood suddenly souring, and Charles winces at the self-loathing emanating from his friend. It’s hard to predict what will set Hank off sometimes - he can be fine one moment, and then the next he’s triggered into one of his episodes, inverting all of his emotions in on himself. Charles knows better, though, than to try to talk him out of it - once Hank has the bit between his teeth only time and silence can loosen it, so instead he turns back to the work and they finish it together, handing equipment one to the other without the need for words. And if Charles cheats a little to make sure he always knows what Hank wants, without forcing him to speak, then Hank doesn’t call him on it. Erik would be proud. He’s always encouraging Charles to spread his wings a little more, stretch himself out of the box he’s restricted himself to all this time.

“You’ll be fine,” Hank says eventually, when they’re tidying up.

Charles looks at him sidelong, judging his state of mind, then reaches out and rests his hand on Hank’s upper arm, squeezes once before letting go. “Thanks, Hank.”

It earns him a small smile, and even if Hank is still not happy he’s better than he was at first. “You should get Erik to give a sample. We don’t have many of the more unusual kinetic talents on record.”

“Bloodplay is for the second anniversary.”

Hank jumps, but Charles had felt Erik coming, so he’s not surprised to find his Dom standing in the lab doorway, smirking at his own joke. He’s got his suit jacket draped over one arm and shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, rumpled and leaving his forearms bare in a way Charles can’t help but glance at, suddenly a little hot under the collar.

“Bloodplay? Carmine,” Charles says, and Erik pauses for a moment before he laughs, as though trying to decide if it’s appropriate to laugh at the use of Charles’ strongest safeword, even used in jest.

“We’ll be late if we don’t get going soon,” his Dom says after a moment in which they just look at each other, moon-eyed, and Charles suspects they are one of those sickening couples that people talk about behind their backs and make retching noises, but he doesn’t really mind. “Are you ready to go?”

“Oh - like this?” Charles looks down at his everyday work clothes, slacks and a soft-worn shirt, waistcoat unbuttoned over the top in concession to the heat though Erik had buttoned it up for him that morning before they left, cinching the strap at the back in tight to keep the fabric flush to his body. It’s not terrible - he likes to think he looks good in his day-to-day clothes, even if they’re not as sharp as Erik’s - but it’s not what he would have planned to wear to see Erik’s family.

Erik snorts. “It’s just Emma and Moira at home.”

“Still…”

“Were you going to wear a different cardigan?” Hank asks, and Erik barks a laugh, quickly stifled, as Charles turns to give his friend a wounded look and only gains a crinkled, leonine nose for response, little hisses like chuckles escaping Hank’s throat despite his obvious best efforts.

“If you’re good enough for me, you’re more than good enough for my sister.” Erik reaches out a hand towards him, raising an eyebrow, and just like last night Charles takes it, grabs his satchel with the other and slings it over his shoulder. “Bye, Hank.”

It’s a much nicer train journey than the night before, Erik’s arm around Charles’ waist holding him steady in the crowded carriage as he tells Charles about the proposal they’re putting together for a new luxury mutant hotel in Dubai and the provisions they’re making for different types of mutants, trying to anticipate who might want to stay there and what their needs might be.

“You should talk to the department about mutant type statistics,” Charles says, thinking about all the data they keep in the university computers, thousands upon thousands of records. “We have a lot of research into the area, you could use it to decide what you need most. There are some kinds of mutations which occur more frequently than others, you’d want to make more for them than for the rarer ones.”

Erik’s thoughts pause mid-ramble, recalibrating to include the new idea, and he grins quickly, his usual blend of preoccupation and irritation when thinking about work dropping away. “My hero,” he says dryly, mouth quirking, and thinks affection at Charles in lieu of acting on it, the carriage too full of people to move enough to express it. “That data could save us a lot of arguments.”

“I only aim to please,” Charles demurs, and lowers his eyes playfully, glancing up at Erik through his lashes to see the appreciative grin flash across his Dom’s face.

Erik’s fingers tighten on Charles’ waist, and he opens his mouth to speak, but the announcer gets there first, electronic voice cutting in with the name of the station as the train starts to slow. Erik’s face changes, then, focusing away from their teasing. “This is our stop.”

Charles’ nervousness raises its head again, and it lingers as they get off the train, climbing up to the surface and the affluent neighbourhood Erik’s sister lives in with her submissive. The subs here wear collars studded with gemstones in bright, soft metals, or gaudy coloured leathers with dangling charms, and Charles is glad suddenly for Erik’s collar around his neck, understated and beautiful in its simplicity. It seems so… gauche, to deck your submissive out like a pet dog instead of a person. Erik catches the edge of Charles’ feeling and tugs him closer, a guiding hand on the small of Charles’ back, easy and casually domineering, and Charles feels safe, even if he is drab compared to these peacocks.

“At least you do something,” Erik mutters as they pass another small flock of designer-clad submissives carrying their Dom’s shopping bags, chattering cheerfully to one another as they go. “A sub shouldn’t be a doll to dress up and pose every hour of every day. Give me a sub I can respect, with a brain and intelligent conversation. Maybe it’s because my mother was so strong, but I just don’t understand the kind of Dom who wants a trophy sub.”

“Your mother was a sub, right?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I could have met her,” Charles says quietly, and Erik turns to smile at him, just a little, the corner of his mouth quirking upward. “She must have been an amazing woman.”

“She was,” Erik says simply, and nudges Charles to the left, toward the door of a tall, white marble apartment building where the doorman is already swinging the door open wide, a note of recognition coming from him at the sight of Erik. “You’d have liked her. She’d have approved of you.”

Charles smiles back, lets himself be led inside and to the elevators at the back, Erik reaching past him to push the button marked ‘P’ and sliding a key into the discreet keyhole beside it, giving it a quarter twist. They start to rise, and even Charles can tell the elevator is incredibly swift and well-engineered - there’s barely a judder as it flies up into the building. “Even if I do wear too many cardigans?”

Erik’s hand comes back to rest against his shoulderblade, a thumb hooking over the collar of his waistcoat and tugging gently on the fabric. “If I didn’t like the way you dressed I’d have said something.” You’re beautiful, Erik thinks hard in lieu of saying it out loud, very deliberately recalls his almost subconscious comparison of Charles against the subs they’d passed on the street, the way he’d found all of them lacking.

The elevator doors open with a quiet whoosh of air, and on the other side Emma Frost raises a perfectly-shaped eyebrow, smirking at them both with blue eyes twinkling merrily. “How very sweet, sugar. Should I hit the stop button for you so you can reenact Love in an Elevator, or are you coming in?”

Charles blushes, but Erik just snorts and gestures for her to get out of his way, pushing Charles gently out in front of him as they step out of the elevator and let the doors shut behind them. “Aerosmith isn’t a metal band, Emma.”

“My mistake. I forgot you only listen to music made before 1980.”

“And you only listen to music made before 1880.”

“It’s called classical for a reason, darling,” Emma says, but she’s smiling for real now, reaching up a hand to cup her brother’s cheek and tap her fingers gently along the line of his cheekbone, as though she’s re-memorising his face. Her mind is wide open and unrestrained, spread across the apartment and laying claim to the territory, cool with coiled strength; it brushes up against Charles’ thoughts, curled comfortably against the edge of Erik’s, and she turns to him, then, her smile becoming less familiar if no less friendly. “And Charles. It’s good to see you again. You’re so adorable, I don’t know that I shall let Erik keep you. Would you like to stay here with me instead?”

Erik growls, reaching for Charles and pulling him back against his chest, chin resting on the top of Charles’ head and glaring at his sister. “Mine.” It’s at least half playful, the both of them well-versed in the little dominance games they play with each other.

He’s warm and solid against Charles’ back, and Charles resists the urge to relax back into him, let Erik take his weight the way he would at home. He leans his head back just a touch so he can feel the arch of Erik’s neck against the back of his skull, surrounding him, and swallows down a sigh, content to be held.

A woman who can only be Moira appears in the doorway behind Emma, looking at Charles curiously before turning to her Domme with an inquisitive expression. She’s slender, pretty in a less weaponised way than Emma is, her long chestnut hair carelessly loose over her shoulders; where Emma is dressed in a flawless white dress, cut viciously just above the knee, Moira is far more casual in just a scoop-necked top and loose linen pants, probably expensive but subtly so. The collar around her neck and the bracelet around Emma’s left wrist are both braided white leather, thin strands woven into a complex and lovely pattern. “Emma, are you tormenting the poor boy again? All of you, come on in. Dinner will be ready soon.”

Charles supposes he shouldn’t have been surprised, when they’re ushered into the main room, that everything in here is white. It’s a wide open-plan space that seems to take up the whole top floor of the building, spare and elegant but with a few signs of life dotted around - a fur coat that must be Emma’s slung over the back of the couch, books and papers on the coffee table, a stack of opened mail by the telephone weighed down with a letter opener in the shape of a dagger. There are a few spots of colour here and there, but the entire apartment seems overwhelmingly pale, and it’s immediately obvious who must have decorated Erik and Charles’ place before they moved in there last month. Charles tries to imagine growing up here, and fails utterly, because he was always so clumsy he’d be bound to stain everything in a place like this. He can’t imagine how much mud Erik must have tromped in here in his teens.

I guess I shouldn’t spill anything, he thinks to Erik, who chuckles at the same time as his sister turns to give Charles a sly look.

If you want to whisper in class, make sure the teacher can’t hear you, she says in his head, and winks at him, making sure Erik can see her do it.

Erik scowls, folding his arms across his chest and turning so he’s facing his sister directly, shoulder in front of Charles’, subtly pushing him back behind Erik. “Don’t have conversations with my sub that I can’t hear. It’s rude.”

“Am I or am I not the head of this family?” Emma asks airily, but her eyes are hard. “Don’t get uppity with me, Erik, or we’ll have it out again. I could make you bow to me, if I was that way inclined, and you know it. Charles, darling, our plans for a secret tryst shall have to wait until your brute of a Dom isn’t around to object.”

“Alas,” says Charles, dropping his eyes to his feet and smiling as Erik makes a grumbling sound beside him. The metal of his collar shifts against the sensitive skin of his throat, testing, Erik reaching out the way he does sometimes just to feel it there. It doesn’t tighten, just flexes, like a living thing, sinuous and heating a little with the attention. It’s easy, then, to reach forward and take Erik’s hand in his, let Erik lace their fingers together and squeeze.

“Are you going to introduce us?” When he looks up and past Erik Moira is stood beside Emma, her posture not deferential at all, her arms crossed under her breasts and her chin raised, hip cocked to one side. “Some of us haven’t met before.”

Emma doesn’t seem to mind. “Moira, darling, this is Erik’s bonded submissive, Charles Xavier. Charles, this is my bonded submissive, Moira MacTaggert.”

“It’s very nice to meet you,” Charles says, and Moira is about to speak when something starts beeping from what is presumably the kitchen. She pauses, then holds up a finger, “Hold that thought,” and goes to turn off whatever it is, calling back over her shoulder. “Erik, darling, could you set the table please?”

“Charles, darling, set the table,” Erik says, and Charles nods and trots off after her to the kitchen to ask Moira where they keep the tableware.

She’s pulling something that smells wonderful out of the oven when he gets there, and he quickly gets out of the way so that she can set it on the heatproof mats on the countertop. “Erik delegated, did he?” Moira asks, smiling. She goes back for another dish, this time full of vegetables.

Charles just shrugs, relaxing a little now he’s away from Emma, though he can still feel her awareness brushing against them, keeping track of everyone in the apartment. “If you could show me where to find things, I’ll set the table.”

“Cutlery is in the drawer to your left - three courses, if you could. Glasses are in the display case above. We’re having white wine, if that’s okay with you and Erik.”

“That’s fine, thank you.”

She goes on with what she’s doing, and Charles goes to get the cutlery, counting out the forks and knives between them, and he’s ready to go until he realises he has no idea where he’s going. Before he can ask, she glances up from where she’s pulling plates from the cabinet and says, “The dining area is out of this door and to the left, around the corner.”

“Are you sure you’re not the telepath?” Charles asks, and smiles when she laughs and shakes her head, giving him the plates to carry. “I’ll be back.”

Over by the window of the main room Erik and Emma seem to be having some kind of intense, quiet discussion, so he doesn’t pause or intrude, though he’s curious - Emma would probably know if he did, unless he made a disproportionate amount of effort to be stealthy, and it doesn’t seem worth it. Instead he follows the wall around as Moira told him and turns the corner to find an open door onto a wide, glass-walled balcony, a cast-iron table, chairs and submissive’s floor cushions set out in the corner overlooking the river.

Two plates go on the top tier of the table, and two on the lower tier directly underneath it for him and Moira, in front of the cushions. Erik doesn’t bother too much about formal dining at home, so they usually sit side-by-side at the kitchen island. He makes a second trip for the cutlery and glasses and meets Moira on the way back as she brings the dishes of food out, pauses in the doorway to wait for her.

“They’re baiting each other again,” she says, rolling her eyes, but she’s giving off a great feeling of fondness nonetheless, with a clarity that only really comes with spending a lot of time with a telepath - she’s clearly trained in how to project, and not shy about it. “They seem to enjoy it. Doms! If they both had penises no doubt they’d be whipping out the ruler.”

“It must have been… interesting, when Erik was living here,” Charles says tentatively, and is rewarded with a laugh.

“That’s not the word I’d use,” Moira says, mouth still twitching like she might laugh again at any moment, “but yes. They love each other dearly but it was better for them both once Erik moved into his own place. He’d never lived with another Dom when he came to live with us, didn’t know how to manage himself in relation to Emma. Me he could handle.”

“That must have been difficult, if they were clashing a lot.”

“Oh, Emma took out her frustrations on me in a mutually enjoyable way. I can’t complain about that. Erik did a lot of sulking, although to be fair he was going through puberty at the time.” She walks back over to the door once everything is out, cupping a hand to her mouth. “Dinner’s ready!”

Moira stands to serve everyone their dinner, then sits on her cushion beside Emma, opposite Charles, as they eat, Erik passing Charles down his loaded plate to set on the lower tier. His hand lingers from time to time in Charles’ hair as they talk - it’s a relaxed affair, and slowly Charles feels less wary of Emma, the more he realises how well-intentioned her pointed teasing is. It’s mostly aimed at Erik anyway, except for once or twice when she deliberately sets out to make Charles blush and exclaims at how cute it is afterwards, and if her sharp grin is familiar it’s easy to see the resemblance when the two Doms are leaning over the table at one another, trading barbs.

“You know, Charles, I babysat you a few times when you were little,” she says over dessert, smiling at his obvious surprise. “You were very small, it was probably… hmm, you were maybe twelve, eighteen months old? Father pimped me out to your father in hopes of a favour for lending out his telepathic daughter to play with Mr Xavier’s telepathic baby. Then, of course, your father died and I’m afraid the lack of possibility for a favour meant Father was no longer willing to have me driven out to Westchester.” She pauses, tapping her chocolate-smeared fork against the bow of her lower lip thoughtfully. “Hmm, a shame. You were a very sweet baby, for certain values of baby.”

“I didn’t know that,” Erik says, and he sounds surprised, his hand stilling on the back of Charles’ neck, fingers stirring the fine, sensitive hairs on his nape. “I didn’t think you even liked children.”

“Whether or not I liked or disliked them had no relevance to Father. He was the Head Dom of this family, and his word was law.” Emma’s smile is chillier now, inwardly turned. “No, you were much better off out of it, Erik. Never mind! Charles is here now, and all grown up, and I still want to pinch his cheeks and call him poppet.”

“Please don’t,” Erik says dryly, and she warms, coming out of her preoccupation to say “I’d like to see you stop me, baby boy.”

Charles is still too busy being surprised to object, putting down his fork with a quiet clink of metal on china. “Is that why you agreed to meet Raven when she was looking for a bondmate for me?” he asks, because he had been rather nonplussed when Raven had come home after the initial meeting - his sister and Emma Frost, though comparable socially from the outside, hardly moved in the same circles.

“At first,” and Emma nods, sipping at her wine. “I wanted to see what became of you. And evidently I was pleased with the outcome, since you’re now bonded to my brother.”

He thinks about it, trying to remember Emma, but he must have been too young - there’s nothing from that age for him to draw on, which as he doesn’t remember his father isn’t surprising. It means, however, that she must have met his mother and know how disinterested she was in him - he winces, just a little, and though Emma’s face doesn’t change he feels a directed wash of sympathy and gentle dismissal of the thought from her, bypassing Erik and Moira, so he doesn’t have to acknowledge it out loud. He sends back gratefulness, and gets bemused affection in return, a sort of nostalgic attachment renewed by his recent return into Emma’s sphere.

“It’s creepy the way you never let anyone escape your clutches,” Erik says, and laughs when Emma pretends to be offended, starting in at one another again.

“Come on, let’s clear these things away while they bicker,” Moira says to Charles from across the lower tier, and he helps her take the dishes back inside and stack them in the dishwasher.

Later, once they’re all settled in the living room, Emma has Charles kneel in front of her, Erik stood at his side, and formally welcomes him into her family, extending her protection over him as part of her responsibilities, though she almost ruins it by making the words sound deliberately seductive to make Erik bristle.

“Pass my regards to your lovely sister,” she says after, when they’re getting ready to leave. “It should be interesting when she decides to settle down - do you know who she plans to ask to be her senior Dom?”

“I hadn’t thought of it yet,” Charles admits, blinking in surprise. “Though I suppose - well, the closest thing she has is Erik.”

“Then it will definitely be interesting,” Emma says, and smiles, unsettlingly amused. “Do keep me in the loop on all the gossip, Charles, I do love to stay informed.”

“He’ll do no such thing,” Erik says, and wraps an arm around Charles’ waist. “No passing tales to this witch, understood?”

“Perfectly,” Charles says, and winks at Moira when Erik’s not looking.